This is the first in an ongoing series in which I, your intrepid explorer, check out San Diego's "mystery spots" - places that you may have driven by hundreds of times but have never thought to visit, long-forgotten dives, places that only tourists dare venture, or just under-appreciated gems. Onward into obscurity!
Ever since I was a kid, I remember seeing the sign for The Amigo Spot while passing by on the 8 freeway (as well as the sign for The Tickled Trout, RIP). The whole Hotel Circle area seemed like a mystery because we often passed through but never, ever had any reason to stop there. Since then, we've found some favorite places in the area, like Albie's Beef Inn and the aforementioned Trout. We decided to see if Amigo Spot could be added to that list of favorites.
It's nestled inside a motel called the Kings Inn, which apparently used to have a more heavy Medieval theme. The door is surrounded by chains that probably once held up a drawbridge-type decorative flourish.
The decor and vibe inside is a bit of a hybrid of 80s/90s Mexican restaurant and motel bar, appropriately. The lighting was a bit dim for photography, so I will have to rely on their officially-sanctioned website photos to demonstrate this.
We were seated in a comfy, private booth along with wall with awesome serape seats!
What that in his mouth? A green tortilla chip, one of three colors?
Yes, indeed it is. They serve the "classic" tri-color tortilla chips. They're not great, and neither is the watery salsa, but there is something comfortingly nostalgic about them. There's something comfortingly nostalgic about the whole place, really.
I opted for a Midori margarita and Jason got their house version. Mine was almost exclusively Midori and Sweet & Sour mix with almost no tequila flavor. Jason fared a little better and you could actually taste that his contained hard alcohol. They were very large, for fans of quantity over quality.
This was a special that I was convinced to try by our waiter, who said they were "bomb". I was pleasantly surprised that the dish did actually have some bomb qualities! In descending order of bombness...
1.) Nopales (cactus) Salad - This was the sleeper star of this plate. It was just a tiny little afterthought squeezed in on the side, but it was fresh and cool and had a very pleasant texture.
2.) Rice - Usually I think of the rice as the weak spot on a combination plate, but that wasn't the case here. It was nice and fluffy. The green onions complemented it well.
3.) Enchiladas - Sadly, they came out a bit cold and the seafood inside wasn't very discernible. There were several varieties, but the texture and flavor was so samesy that you couldn't tell a shrimp from a scallop. However, the sauce was quite good. It was a nice balance between cream and vegetable flavors. The cotija cheese was fresh and tasty as well.
4.) Beans - Whatevs.
Jason had these and quite enjoyed them. Unlike my food, it was kept nice and hot by the candle contraption. I pressed him for more commentary and he said that he liked that they didn't come with cheese. While I suppose that makes them more authentic, I have to disagree because CHEESE RULZ 4EVA AMEN.
I should mention that there were roaming musicians, with whom I spent a good portion of the time avoiding eye contact (they were actually really good, I just don't like the social pressure of having people stand around the table playing). The musical style was Son Huasteco, which I will admit I had to look up. They lacked the visual flair of a Mariachi band, but the music was calmer and more atmospheric.
Verdict: Not the best, but an interesting place worth checking out for its odd retro style.
The Amigo Spot
1333 Hotel Circle South
San Diego, CA 92108
Note: the Kings Inn is also home to the Waffle Spot, which we will surely be checking out soon for this column because of their awesome mascot.